Written Sunday, March 06, 2011 By Richard Walker
The best way to begin any movie tie-in review is to open by rambling on about how terrible this breed of video game tends to be, almost entirely without exception. We're not going to that though. You know movie-based video games are usually bad. It's just a fundamental truth. Except Rango: The Video Game isn't actually that bad, especially if you happen to be among its target audience of wee ones.
Predictably, Rango is a 3D platformer, which is always a safe bet for an animated movie tie-in. Give the character a double jump, things to collect, baddies to punch and hey presto, you have a video game ready to slap on a disc and sell to whining kids. Developer Behaviour has gone a step further than the usual lazy fare we've grown accustomed to over the years however, actually imbuing the game with a dose of personality, including decent voice work - that we can only assume is delivered by impersonators - and excellent visuals.
"That's one big-ass bullet."
Rango's yarn is divided into a series of tall tales that expand the story berond the movie and are told by the chameleon sheriff himself. Beginning when a series of glowing green meteorite fragments are found all around the outskirts of the small town of Dirt and some residents mysteriously disappear, Rango sets off on a quest to recover the fragments when his close friend Beans also goes missing after she's kidnapped by Bad Bill. What follows is an adventure with a nice bit of variety beyond the standard platform jumping, which kicks Rango a level above its peers.
Kicking off with some neat visual tricks that see Rango's setting change around him as he gets his story straight, you'll then quickly learn a series of mechanics involving Rango's gun and melee attacks, before being left to your own devices to effortlessly romp through the game's narrative. And effortlessly romp through it you will, as Rango is quite possibly the easiest game we've ever played on the hardest difficulty setting. Any player with even a slight modicum of rudimentary skill playing a game will breeze through Rango and once you've completed the game, that's it.
Like any platformer, there's a couple of hidden items to collect in the shape of fish bowls and mining sites that yield loads of sheriff stars, which act as the game's currency. Smashing hidden goldfish bowls and excavating dig sites with a pick axe contributes to a 100% completion rate and unlockable outfits, concept art and character bios, and that's really all there is to it. Each of Rango's chapters takes about half an hour on average to complete and none of them are particularly taxing at any point.
"Rango riding a bat. Yesterday."
In fact, we managed to race through Rango in a single sitting in roughly four hours or so, collecting almost every dig site, goldfish bowl and acquiring tens of thousands of sheriff stars. While it lasts, Rango is certainly uncomplicated fun and as we've already mentioned, there is a nice dose of variety. You'll chase trains riding on a roadrunner, perform golf swings to thwack explosive insects at zombies and bosses, chase Bad Bill on a bat, fight a towering rattlesnake, shoot targets with slow-motion golden bullets, avoid a flashlight wielding gonzo journalist and at one exceptionally surreal juncture, get caught inside an arcade cabinet and trapped within a bizarre game comprised entirely of cel-shaded blocks.
So, variety is Rango's spice and its presentation coupled with rather pleasant visuals and quirky voice-acting make the game a simplistic joy while it lasts, which unfortunately isn't very long at all. There's virtually no replay value in Rango then, with the only reason to revisit completed quests being to collect things you might have missed or further upgrade Rango's abilities. And given that you're able to spend piles of gathered sheriff stars when you come across Wounded Bird, on a number of boosts to Rango's abilities, the brevity of the game makes these upgrades pretty much redundant. There's no way you'll max out all of Rango's abilities, simply because there isn't the time in which to do it.
"Yes, Rango really does go this mental."
Consequently, you'll end the game with a semi-upgraded gun, a charge ability you'll never use, time extensions for power ups that you'll probably seldom need and a sense of complete dissatisfaction. It's a shame really, because Rango does a lot of things right, but falls spectacularly due to its tragic lack of longevity and replay value. For its target audience of snot-nosed sprogs however, Rango might last considerably longer and indeed, the little people may even consider playing it again if they loved the movie enough.
For the more hardened gamer after a simple 1000 Gamerscore though, there might be the temptation to replay Rango for the 200,000 sheriff stars achievement and the 125 Gamerpoints for finishing the game on hard and unlocking every extra bit of art, character biographies and outfits, which will require you collect everything in the game. You can revisit individual chapters though, so even that won't take you too long. In about five hours or less, you can get 100%, which will be enough to convince easy cheevo hunters to buy it.
Rango is a perfectly pleasant and enjoyable game that replicates the animated movie's style brilliantly. Younglings will love it to bits and won't notice its shortcomings or the fact that some of its voices sound ever-so-slightly off. Nor will they care that it's all over in the blink of an eye and there's no reason whatsoever to play it again ever. Count this as a missed opportunity for developer Behaviour then, as a few extra levels or an extra game mode or two could have made this an infinitely more inviting prospect and better value for money. As it stands though, Rango just isn't worth the doubloons.
Rango's score is nice and jaunty, with some decent orchestral bits here and there as well as some typically Wild West-style cues, with acoustic guitars and harmonica. The voice-acting is pretty good too.
Rango looks great, especially for the kind of video game that normally gets churned out as quickly as possible to launch alongside a movie. There are some neat visual touches and a good bit of detail in most of Rango's world, which is pretty remarkable.
Varied and good wholesome fun, Rango is actually surprisingly entertaining to play. It's platforming, gunplay and button-bashing melee is simplistic, but that's just part of the charm.
Now here's where Rango fails. The story lasts only a mere four hours or so including cutscenes and is therefore over all too soon. This might have been fine had you the ability to unlock an extra mode or something worthwhile after finishing the game, but alas, Rango's story is all there is on the disc.
It's a run-of-the-mill list, all told, but Rango's achievements are so easy to get and enjoyable for the most part, that you'll find little to complain about. Some grinding sheriff star collection will soon grate though.
Rango is an endearing little platform game that on the surface does almost everything right for its demographic. There's platform-jumping, rail grinding, riding sections and more, but it all adds up to nothing when the game is as short as it is. Rango is just far too brief to recommend to anyone other than easily pleased kids.
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